The History of Cherries


European settlers had hardly stepped on the soil of the New World before they began planting cherry trees. Early French colonists from Normandy brought pits that they planted along the Saint Lawrence River and on down into the Great Lakes area. Cherry trees were part of the garden of French settlers as they established such cities as Detroit, Vincennes, and other Midwestern settlements.

But, Peter Dougherty, a Presbyterian missionary, is credited with planting the first cherry orchard and, in essence, getting the cherry industry started as a commercial enterprise in the Grand Traverse Region. Against the advice of an Indian farmer who had grown other fruits in the area, Dougherty planted a cherry orchard in 1852 on the Old Mission Peninsula, which is a narrow strip of land that juts out into Grand Traverse Bay just north of Traverse City. Much to the surprise of the Indians and others, Dougherty's cherry trees flourished and soon other residents of the area planted trees. The area proved to be ideal for growing cherries because Lake Michigan helps to temper Arctic winds in winter and cool the orchards in summer.

The first commercial cherry orchard was planted in 1893 on Ridgewood Farm near the site of Dougherty's original plantings. By the early 1900s, the tart cherry industry was firmly established and production surpassed other major crops. The first cherry processing facility, Traverse City Canning Company, was built just south of Traverse City, and the ruby red fruit was soon shipped to Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Today, there are more than two million cherry trees in the Grand Traverse Region, and Traverse City, in the heart of the region, has been dubbed the "Cherry Capital of the World." The Grand Traverse Region annually produces about 40 percent of the tart cherries grown in the United States. Michigan leads the nation in the production of tart cherries, harvesting about three-fourths of the U.S. crop. Commercial orchards dot the state along Lake Michigan from Benton Harbor to the Elk Rapids area.

In celebration of the fruit that grows so well in the Grand Traverse Region, a spring ceremony known as the "Blessing of the Blossoms" was initiated in 1924. This event eventually became the National Cherry Festival, which is held in Traverse City each year in July and attracts visitors from all over the world to this land of rolling hills, sky blue waters, and cherries.


Aloha Bread

Aloha Bread

Bananas and macadamia nuts accented with cherries bring home a tropical taste.

  • 1 jar (10 ounces) maraschino cherries
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts or walnuts

Drain maraschino cherries, reserving 2 tablespoons juice. Cut cherries in quarters; set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, eggs and reserved cherry juice; mix on medium speed of electric mixer until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add flour mixture and mashed bananas alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in cherries and nuts. Lightly spray a 9 x 5 x 3-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread batter evenly in pan.

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven 1 hour, or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf, about 16 slices
Serving size: 1 slice
Calories per serving: 185
Total fat per serving: 7-1/2 grams


No-Bake Cherry Cheese Squares

Fluffy, light and just a hint of lemon.

  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 can (21 ounces) cherry filling and topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter; mix well. Press crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Let crust chill while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, lemon peel and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. Pour into prepared crust.

Combine cherry filling and almond extract. Pour over cheese filling. Let chill until ready to serve.

Makes 9 servings
Serving size: 1 (3-inch) square
Calories per serving: 323
Total fat per serving: 16 grams


Provided by Cherry Marketing Institute

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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